Patricia’s not been the same since she shot that intruder a year ago. She’s not prone to violence, although she’s passionate. We’ve had heated exchanges, but they’ve never ended in bloodshed. This shooting was on cue, in the heat of the moment and in the name of art. It feels funny saying ‘in the name of art.’ I’ve always viewed films as commerce rather than art, but I’ve never been a movie buff, unlike Patricia.
When we got married, everyone said, how on earth did you pull her, Ted? No one thought we’d last. They said I was old enough to be her father, even though I was only seven years her senior. It must be my Standhope genes. My father was old looking and his father also aged before his time. It’s the way we’re built up north.
I suppose it’s the icy wind sweeping in from the North Sea or something in the water. Anyway, Pat had ideas about tramping the boards, and all the cameramen loved her. She’s still a looker, even after living in Hartlepool for thirty years.
What was it her mother called me? A good provider is what she said. Like a house brick or a good egg, I was dependable. They both agreed that Patricia had a fine husband, and I offered her staunch support.
Ted’s not a poor catch, her mother said. It’s just a shame he looks so tired all the time. I think ‘quailish’ was the word she used, for heaven’s sake.
My hair went grey before its time, I admit, but Patricia never seemed to mind.
She said, all the silver hair makes you look distinguished, Ted.
Hmm… her mother would say. I think you mean extinguished, don’t you, dear?
They both had a merry old chortle at my expense, and I smiled. What else could I do?
I don’t intend to walk round with dyed hair and makeup. I’d rather be extinct than look like a cast member of The Living Dead.
Our wedding was on a glorious summer’s day and I remember the event for its lack of unexpected occurrences, blunders, or catastrophes. However, that’s only true because all the disasters happened in the hours preceding our big day. Patricia had a good time at a hen night the evening before. I mean, way beyond a few glasses of fizz.
Her version of the story is that someone spiked the drinks and her broken nose was because of an accident. The chief bridesmaid disclosed Pat had locked herself in the venue’s restroom and the wooden seat dropped and cracked her nose as she was vomiting down the pan. Either way, it wasn’t an impressive look as she waddled up the aisle. The collision with the toilet seat left a lasting impression on all those present and a lump on Pat’s nose that has remained.
I was the serious one in our partnership, with the accountancy qualifications and a job for life with a company that manufactured prosthetic implants. We produce a whole range of artificial devices that replace many missing body parts, however, I’m sure that’s too much detail. This isn’t about me. It’s always about Pat. She thrives on the attention.
After a couple of years of wedlock, we visited a marriage guidance counsellor to discuss our relationship. She was unhappy, although I didn’t think we had a problem. I’m not satisfied with my life, she announced.
I said I had no complaints, but that fell on deaf ears.
Our arbitrator concluded Pat needed an outlet for her life’s passion.
I agreed to support her through drama school. It worked well for a while.
I got a bit of peace, and she lived the student’s life.
After graduating, Pat gained work experience using her vocal skills to provide extra screams, yelps and rhubarb for film soundtracks. Nothing too elaborate, but her name appeared at the end of the additional sound credits.
Hans Stehen, a German Art-House film director, spotted her, or she made herself known to him, and he invited her to hover in the background of his wide shots at Pinewood Studios. This was the chance she had hoped for, and she seized the opportunity to take part. Patricia had got the movie bug now, and she’d use this knowledge to help achieve her long-term goal.
We attended the cast and crew screening and Pat alerted me as her shot appeared.
Quick, Ted, look! She jabbed her forefinger at the screen.
I blinked and missed her fleeting image as it passed by, but leaned over to congratulate her. Well done, I whispered. Any close ups? I asked, in innocence.
No, she said, hissing at me. I told you, they dropped that other scene.
The entertainment business is all about connections, and Pat enjoyed making as many contacts as possible. She said, you never know when the big break will happen.
Of course, I agreed. Whatever it takes, love.
Pat’s eyes flashed like the jackpot on a game machine.
In retrospect, my imprudent response was both a big mistake and her freedom pass to reach for the stars. She kissed me with an unbridled ferocity that belied naked ambition. I’d released a whirlwind that could wreak untold havoc with impunity.
I’m not saying she was out every night, however, I’ve got used to kitchen duties and developed impressive culinary skills in her absence. In addition, I’m no stranger to the local markets and I’m on first-name terms with all the staff at the local Sainsbury’s; Joyce keeps fish on ice for me every Friday, and Helen reserves a leg of lamb for our weekend roast.
Patricia is what’s known as a personality. ‘A bit of a character’ is how my father described her. Pat overheard him talking about her one day and assumed he was paying her a compliment.
I always knew he liked me, she said. He was just pretending to be obnoxious.
It’s his sense of humour, I said.
I told you.
I know, love.
My father let Pat have the benefit of his thoughts at my birthday celebration last year, and she pecked him on the cheek.
See, Teddy, what did I say?
Dumbfounded and flabbergasted, the old man’s jaw sagged like six pounds of soggy plaster, and his eyes popped out on stalks. Pat was never one for deciphering the emotions of non-thespians. She read my father’s blunt put-downs as deadpan irony.
He’s such a darling, Teddy, she said. Where did your mother find him?
Anyway, it was obvious she’d have to network after college, and why not? That’s what it’s about. If you want to get ahead in show biz, you need to engage with it 24-7-365, right? I turned a blind eye for years and blundered on, paying the bills and pampering her ego. Yes, I helped to bolster Pat’s self-esteem and I acknowledge my part in enabling her ego to inflate and her ambition to soar into the stratosphere. I also plastered over the cracks of her many insecurities and allowed her to reach new depths of delusion, too.
What else could I do? She was a woman on a mission and chasing a ticking clock. Patricia had a life plan and had her future mapped out. However, I wasn’t blind to the fact that she was deviating from the agreed route and going off-plan. There were one or two nights when she returned way later than expected. I’d pretend to be asleep as she snuck about the bathroom and slid under the duvet. There was no point in starting a debate so early in the morning.
Pat’s alcohol intake increased beyond acceptable levels. However, she never appeared to be out of control, despite tottering about. I heard she had to be steadied on her feet upon occasion and she’d brush those inebriated events aside. Pat would explain the slips as nothing more than rehearsing her trademark jelly-kneed swoon. It’s a technique that all leading ladies and damsels in distress need to perfect.
I’m not sure that’s correct, but Patricia’s off-screen performances paid dividends and she got a walk-on part in a Dutch Detective Movie. They immortalised her as the woman who blows away an intruder in the pre-title sequence. She also had a couple of lines, but they dropped them. The director, Hans, didn’t want her character to feature beyond the opening scene.
At last, Pat had achieved her full screen close up. They freeze-framed her screaming face as she pulled the trigger of a 44 Magnum and faded her to black under the titles. Pat is her own worst critic and all she could see was her crooked nose filling the shimmering screen. As a result, she was livid and hated the entire project. The director sympathised with Pat and promised to fix her issue in post-production, however it never happened.
The producers hired a theatre near China Town for the premiere. They couldn’t afford the Odeon in Leicester Square. There was no money in the budget for luxury reclining seats and lavish drinks beforehand. In fact, they didn’t even offer Pat an additional ticket for her significant other or invite me to the after-party.
Aren’t there enough tickets for guests? I asked.
I know, she said, they’re such cheapskates.
Shame, I said, I would’ve enjoyed a night out.
Tell me about it, Teddy, she said, applying her war paint.
It was dank and murky outside that Sunday evening and the taxi arrived late. Road conditions and visibility were poor, even for late November. Pat was in a flap and screamed at the driver on our front doorstep. He shrugged and ambled back to his car and opened the passenger door. Pat was still fuming as she teetered down our pathway in her killer heels.
Can I join you later? I asked.
I’ll let you know, she said, but don’t wait up.
Oh, I said, frowning.
Don’t sulk, darling, she said, getting into the back of the cab.
Sulk? I wouldn’t dream of it, I said, stuffing my hands in my pockets.
I just don’t want to spoil your night, you know? In case I’m late or anything.
Fine, I said, waving her farewell. Have a fun night and I’ll see you when I see you.
Love you, Teddy, Kiss! Kiss!
I recall the fogbound night smothering the vehicle’s rear lights as they receded into the distance and muffling the exhaust as it spat out contemptuous clouds into the darkness. The road’s surface glistened like patent leather and looked as treacherous as an abandoned ice-skating rink.
My telephone woke me up at three in the morning. It was the West-Middlesex hospital. They asked me if I’m the next of kin. Patricia’s been involved in a car crash. She’s in the I.C.U. overnight and her immediate prospects aren’t looking great.
I hauled on my suit over my pyjamas and dashed to the A and E.
A nurse escorted me to the Patricia’s ward and told me she was asleep.
I waited in the corridor outside her room until the change of shift at eight.
A doctor spoke to me around nine o’clock.
I was too tired to process the details.
Give it to me straight, I said.
He put his hand on my shoulder.
I inhaled tight lipped and nodded.
There are multiple fractures to both tibiae.
Meaning what? I said, shaking my head.
She’ll not walk again, he said.
My knees shuddered.
Yes. I’m sorry.
I’ve always been a practical person and prepared for every eventuality. In this situation, I snapped to attention and focused on Patricia. My business contacts in the leg department came in handy, and I had our doors widened.
Patricia makes living as a voiceover artist now. She still employs an agent for film work and they bring her on set when required. Patricia has her own special U.S.P. She’s the glamorous lady in the wheelchair. It’s surprising how often the agent calls.
Pat’s making up for lost time in the kitchen. She’s become a domestic goddess in no time and can conjure up mouth-watering miracles in moments. It’s a relief to have a night off and I’ve learned to kick back and relax. I’ve rediscovered my long lost social life, and who doesn’t enjoy a fun night out? There are only so many times I can listen to Pat’s story about her big break.